- "My initial idea for this album project was to explore ideas of science-fiction, but… it soon became obvious to me that my journey was one to inner rather than outer space." So said Surgeon of his last LP, 2011's Breaking The Frame, which took cues from artists like Eliane Radigue and Alice Coltrane in its search for music's "deep spiritual essence." Its follow-up reverses the process, ditching introspection to peer once more into outer space. The eight tracks on From Farthest Known Objects are named after distant galaxies, and Surgeon describes them as "pop hits" from other worlds, picked up via his equipment as if he were catching rogue radio signals. Not since the '90s has a Surgeon LP sounded so comfortable with techno convention.
This reflects Anthony Child's changing interests. His few solo productions from the past five years have been well-made but unadventurous; in the meantime, he caught the modular bug, developing an ambient sideline (leading to last year's Electronic Recordings From Maui Jungle Vol. 1) and a hybrid live/DJ setup that he took around the festival circuit. Big on muscle and low on surprises, that show seems to have set the stage for From Farthest Known Objects.
The album is uniform and fairly simple in construction. Its stable rhythms and unfussy arrangements place the focus on the synths, which pool into viscous blobs or shriek angrily across the stereo field. Mostly, a track shows what it has to offer in the first 30 seconds, and the rest is just tweaking and fading, riding the swampy groove. The best of them are great fun. The disturbingly rubbery "EGS-zs8-1" and propulsive tracks like "BDF-3299" and "SXDF-NB1006-2" would make an excellent EP.
The rest of the album exhausts these ideas. Some tracks, like "BDF-521," are effective but unremarkable. A few are quite bad: the crude halftime of "ULAS J1120+0641" sits awkwardly beneath wailing ring-mod textures. Often Child struggles to find his funk in the sludge. (The barrelling triplet rhythms on "z8_GND_5296" and "A1703 zD6" are particularly unsatisfying.)
But even the album's best lack a reflective quality. They're looking out instead of in, showing no interest in the rich, turbulent interior of Child's musical world. Breaking The Frame was, Child said, not about "entertainment" but "transformation." Its follow-up seeks purely to entertain, which, weirdly, isn't so entertaining after all.
06. ULAS J1120+0641
07. A1703 zD6